COVID-19 crisis: Nearly half of working, renting households have a month of savings or less, report finds

March 23, 2020

TORONTO – Close to half of working renters in Canada don’t have enough savings to pay their bills for more than a month if they lose their jobs, a new analysis by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) shows.

“As more Canadians lose their incomes to COVID-19 every day, hundreds of thousands of families could soon be forced to choose between buying groceries and paying the rent,” said Ricardo Tranjan, political economist and senior researcher with the CCPA Ontario office. “It’s good that the Government of Canada has announced plans to support lower-income Canadians, but many families can’t wait for support by April or May – they need it now. A lot of out-of-work tenants will be in dire straits before the end of the month.”

Statistics Canada data from 2016 show that 3.4 million Canadian households are renters whose main source of income is employment or self-employment income. Of this group, 46 per cent, or 1.6 million households, only have enough money saved to pay their bills for a month or less, the CCPA analysis shows. Twenty-four per cent of the total, or 830,000 households, don’t have enough income to get through a single week without pay. 

“When we say people are living paycheque to paycheque, it’s not just an expression, it’s reality,” Tranjan said. “As the crisis worsens, the need to support low-income renters becomes even more urgent. Both the federal and provincial governments must work to keep renters safe and solvent.”

On a per capita basis, the four Atlantic provinces have the highest numbers of renters with a month or less of savings, the study found. Sixty-nine per cent of Prince Edward Island renters fell into that category. Ontario, the most populous province, had 521,000 households in the same boat.

Tranjan called for “fast and bold action” to support renters right away.

“Some higher-income renters may just need to defer their rent until they can get back to work, but for lower-income renters, deferral likely means taking on debt that they won’t be able to repay,” Tranjan said. “In those cases, we need direct government assistance and the full cooperation of landlords.”

The full CCPA report, with graphs, is available at www.policyalternatives.ca.

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For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact: Alyssa O’Dell at [email protected] or 343-998-7575.

The CCPA is an independent, non-profit charitable research institute founded in 1980.